As I was recently reading an article on animation in the classroom, it quickly came to my mind that I would use it for TESOL in China for an assortment of reasons. Those range from Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) to character education since students relate to animated characters. Another big point by the author included how using animation helped make behavior corrections less personal and more about deeper growth needed. This reminded me of some watching and research I have done in the past year or so as a father of three boys as part of the preparation of media they would be guided in digesting in the future.
My oldest son and I enjoy watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood together. It’s his favorite show, and I’m not ashamed to say it’s mine too. There was an evening when he was two-years-old that we sat down to watch it. As the show’s intro was happening and the characters came on to the screen, my son revealed something. When Daniel Tiger showed up, he said, “Hey Daddy, that’s me.” Soon after came Mr. Tiger, or Daddy Tiger. “And that’s you, Dad.”
My son had just begun to make media-to-self and media-to-world connections. He was Daniel Tiger, and I was Daniel Tiger’s dad. It was an amazing moment where I was so proud of my son and how he was growing. I also knew that I as his father could use the connections my son had with Daniel Tiger for everyday events when necessary. (Side note: It helped that studies have already started to show that watching the show improves children’s social and emotional skills.)
Now my son and I could discuss and connect to our lives how we were feeling (similar to Daniel Tiger and his dad or mom). On top of that, around the same time as that event, my son started to do something else remarkable. Before we would watch an episode together, I’d ask him which one he wanted to view. He started to request particular episodes that 1) focused on how to manage a feeling he had felt recently, or 2) guided him in how to express himself when a certain kind of situation arose.
Mind blown…heart chuckling since I started to do the same things more often too just months after him. I began to more often imagine being Mr. Tiger, take episodes to be quite meaningful, and want to see again how he or Mrs. Tiger dealt with the experience at hand.
When it comes to Chinese culture, stories are influential. These personalities in movies or shows favored by the students can be quite relatable. (I deeply wish there was a Chinese version of PBS!) What can teachers in China, locals and foreigners, do with animation then? Zhong (2012) stated that within Confucian tradition teachers are to assume two major charges. The first and foremost one was to teach knowledge and supply answers through the deep knowledge they have acquired. The second charge was to “cultivate people” (Jin & Cortazzi, as cited in Zhong, 2012). Teachers were to help students develop morals and to be available for pastoral care or advice on various issues. These are two of many ways to use animation while I lead toward the latter one.
A show could be viewed by a class of students once a week or every two weeks. Then the content could be actively reflected upon and applied by the teacher and students through relevant, direct practice as well as everyday situations. Of course, any music included could be really catchy while music for children has already time and time again proven to have quite the impact on children.
Who knows…maybe a teacher would start to imagine him/herself as a character in the show.
What if the students would create a show of their own and chronicle events throughout the year?